In Defense of the Constitwotion

I’m tired. I spent last week with my students at camp, came home Saturday to some housework that needed to be done, and was the resident staff member at church on Sunday – which meant I preached Sunday morning and was on duty Sunday night. So forgive me if this comes off less eloquent than I hope.

I think it’s time we established that our country is no longer serviced by having only one Constitution. As things seem to swing ever farther to the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum, it would appear reasonable to do away with one central document whose carefully crafted language no longer meets our modern day sensibilities, and instead draft two new documents aimed towards the two dominant ideologies currently in power.

I propose we call them the Constitwotion. One for Red State folks. One for Blue State folks.

You can surmise the basic premises for each – Red State rules would be heavy on specific social behaviors deemed “harmful” and on lack of regulatory control for businesses. It wouldn’t quite be the old call of small government, but it would hew more towards the modern conservative ideal.

Blue State rules would lean towards a more egalitarian model where everyone contributes his or her fair share and everyone gets the exact same treatment. Everyone. Even the ivory tower types who typically get treated better than everyone else but who push for equality even as they surf the free WiFi at Starbucks on their iPads.

It shouldn’t take too long to draft these documents – chances are each party already has something similar in writing as part of the full-contact presidential campaign preparations. Now, instead of having to choose one vision of America or the other for ALL people, we can simply choose to live under one or the other as separate people. When you head into the primaries and you select the party for which you intend to vote, you’ll simultaneously be aligning yourself with the Constitwotion under which you want to live.

Clean. Simple. Neat.

Sure, there’ll be problems – for instance, most of the rich people who like tax breaks and the ability to shelter their income would be hard pressed to sign up for a Blue State Constitwotion that would tax their wealth and redistribute it to fair market systems, which would severely compromise the Blue State system of government (you gotta generate revenue or cut costs somewhere).

And those people who would happily choose to live under the Red State system might find it a little chafing to have their personal liberties closely monitored and “fine tuned” by the prevailing moral crisis of the moment.

But since we obviously can’t work together under one document for all, we need to embrace our destiny and get to work on these two separate but equal documents. Sure, it’s like the Civil War without guns, but hey – if you took away the messing fighting and dying and the whole inhumanity of slavery – the idea of two separate nations with two separate ideologies doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

It must not, because that seems to be what we’re pushing towards anyway.

Just a thought.

One in the Cuckoo’s Nest

Sometimes, life imitates art imitating life.

Every once in a while, when the world seems to be spinning at a billion miles an hour and the circumstances of my life seem more than I can bear, I have this little ritual I do that helps me slow things down and take them in stride. It’s nothing fancy, really; it’s not even a ritual per se, more of an awareness that I call to mind and own and immediately feel comforted by.

I sit in my office, or my car, or wherever I may be, and I tell myself I’m crazy.

Good old fashioned Looney Tunes. Grab the straight jackets and the butterfly nets because one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, so send in the men in their little white coats because they’re coming to take me away C-R-A-Z-Y.

I admit this, and I feel better. It’s crazy. But that’s the point.

I’m all about logic and reason, normally, but sometimes I have to stop and admit that the world doesn’t really function that way. If it did, some of the stuff that goes on wouldn’t; and if you don’t believe me, go read the Freeh Report on Penn State and tell me where the logic and reason is in that situation. If, at heart, the world functioned in a way that made complete sense and fit rationally and logically in neat categories, things would be a lot different.

But things don’t fit neatly into categories. Heck, they don’t even fit neatly into generalizations. The world, despite our careful attempts at a logical and orderly veneer, is chaotic. A mess. A swirling, raging storm of illness and nonsense.

We struggle mightily to deny this, of course. We use words and trains of thought to attempt to bring order to the madness. We soothe ourselves with compassionate action and well-intentioned service. We seek the balm of Gilead in our sensitive lives, but eventually we grow tired of the pretending, we grow raw from the chafing of our attempts to force chaos into logic’s little box, and we give in.

We lose hope.

We declare that nothing has any meaning and there’s no way forward. Chaos wins. Madness reigns. And we just have to accept that reality.

On our darkest days, we are Randall Patrick McMurphy, and the world is our asylum. You can pick your own Nurse Ratched.

That’s why it helps for me to admit that, if the world is crazy, then I’m crazy too. I didn’t come into existence independent of the universe – I am exactly what the universe produces and could never hope to become different. I am crazy. Broken. Twisted. Insane. And by owning that fact, I am relieved of my guilt for not being able to change it. My burden becomes lighter because I know that I cannot do the impossible.

Someone greater than me has to do it. Someone beyond the madness. Someone who can understand it but transcend it at the same time. Point me to that person and let me put my trust in him/her; let me throw myself at his/her feet and ask to be rescued from the madness, from the darkness, from the asylum and Ratched’s too-powerful established madness of her own. I will gladly confess my insanity, my brokenness, my lack of utter ability to do anything for myself and seek refuge within the one who can bring order to bear on chaos. Let me fall on the one who said, “Come to me if you’re tired of your burden, and I will give you complete rest.”

I often forget all of this, but it doesn’t take life long to remind me that sometimes the sanest person in the asylum is the one who admits he’s insane.


Certain topics wind there way into your brain and have a way of camping out there. I was able to preach this past Sunday at my church, and given that the Fourth is this week, our theme for the day was freedom. I sat down to study freedom in both a biblical and cultural context, and came away with a some new perspective on the idea.

I want to share those thoughts with you today. To some this will be a screed, a pointed opinion piece that skews one direction or another. That’s true. But I hope, as always, that those who read it will consider not just the presentation, but the points. Thus, to make the blog a manageable read, I’ve focused solely on my comments as they apply to our cultural context.

Just last Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 ruling affirming the PPACA, otherwise known as the Healthcare Reform act. Though the issued ruled ran 183 pages in length, the over-simplification is this: the Healthcare Reform that has caused no small amount of angst and discussion is legal.

Predictably, the ruling lead to immediate backlash. Posts on Facebook and Twitter were especially indignant, with many people comparing the ruling to a sudden shift towards communism. Or as one of my friends put it, “The U S of A is now the USSR.” Other folks were more pragmatic in their responses – “Let’s get out and vote and restore this country!” – while others were simply angry for anger’s sake.

Such is the state of the nation. But beneath all the rhetoric, beneath the hyperbole and anger and fear, lies something primeval. In fact, it’s so basic to human nature that it predates the rise of civilization. And it’s something that we have granted divine right here in the States, elevating it to the one thing we cherish above all others.


In a world where the mention of the word evokes images of a blue-faced Mel Gibson screaming in a Scottish accent, what does freedom really mean? Here in the US, we understand it to be an inalienable right, an ideal that is preserved and protected for every individual at all costs. We see it as the ability to live without restrictions, to achieve the unlimited potential of our imaginations. It gets expression in everything from the size of our bank account to the gender of the person we want to marry, and the current ethos of the culture says that no one, not God, not government, has the authority to curtail it.

That attitude is patently – and painfully – false.

Freedom has its limitations. There are boundaries that are not to be crossed in order for a free society to exist. Here in the United States we call it the Constitution, and while the intention and interpretation of that document may be the source of endless debate, what cannot be argued is that establishes a framework for the freedom we so cherish.

It establishes limits. To personal actions. To governmental actions. The Constitution of the United States of America says, in effect, these are the mutually agreed upon conditions of our society, intended to give the maximum number of people the maximum amount of freedom as a whole. It does not allow us carte blanche; it does not grant each individual the right to do as his or her heart may desire; it says that certain actions will be declared unlawful so the majority may be otherwise free.

Once upon a time, this was the ethos of our country. That we would willingly curtail the extent of our personal freedoms in order to secure freedom for the many. But that has changed. In a post-9/11 world, more and more people are resentful of the idea that any personal liberty should be sacrificed for the greater good. And our government has often stepped far beyond the historical boundaries of their power and done things that have been, at best, intrusive, all in the name of freedom.

But the cultural shift preceeded even that.

In fact, the shift away from acceptable limitations on freedom is reflected in a shift away from responsibility for freedom. The limits that our forefathers framed within the founding document were built upon the citizenry accepting their responsibility for maintaining those freedoms. Whether you read the Constitution narrow or wide, the language of mutual responsibility for the existence of our country is inescapable. And yet, we have a great many who would seek to shirk those responsibilities in the name of freedom.

Part of it comes back to the American dream; my entire life I was taught that the first third of my existence was intended for the accumulation of knowledge and experience; my second third was intended for applying that knowledge and experience in some sort of venture that would secure my financial future; and that the final third of my existence was intended for me to do whatever the heck I wanted to do.

No limits. No responsibilities. No one to tell me otherwise.

So if our life is meant to culminate with the ability to transcend rules or expectations or responsibilities, why wait? If the system is so broken, if politics and government and citizenship is so pointless, why participate? Why vote? Why care?

But the problem is that freedom requires someone to care, to work, to tend to the responsibilities that make the very notion of our country possible. Freedom requires that someone bear the cost; and we need to come face to face with the reality that while we are fighting for our right to do as we please, somewhere on this rock we call home a man or woman is standing guard in full-body armor and a 70-pound pack, carrying a AR-15 fighting for our right to exist as a nation.

Freedom has its consequences. It has its costs. Some are higher than others.

It’s a price that history has shown us is worth it.

I won’t make a grand pronouncement about our nation being at a crossroads, but we do find ourselves in a unique place where our understanding of what freedom really is will define how that freedom works. As we come to the 4th and celebrate our nation’s birth, let us reflect on its past and consider its future – and may we do so with all seriousness.

Is Something Wrong in Grayson?

Last night, my family went to eat at Zaxby’s with a couple of the students from my church. We were enjoying our food when the restaurant inexplicably began to fill up with teenagers – some of whom I was familiar with. In fact, I got up and hugged one of the kids because I taught her last semester at the Grayson Christian Learning Center. We chatted briefly about our respective summers, and then separated, but I remember walking out of Zaxby’s and looking at all those kids and thinking:

“Man, I hope none of them go do anything stupid.”

So imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I woke up and saw the Patch headline, “Teenager Dies in Grayson Crash.” I quickly read the article, and realizing that the names of the students involved had not yet been released, I hit Twitter and Facebook to see if I could find anything out.

Within five minutes, I had three different responders. The names they provided were the same. Within twenty minutes, I had seven responses.

Same names each time.


I don’t know the students involved; and while I grieve for their families, there was a sense of relief that it wasn’t any of the kids I’m close to. That sounds callous, I know, but it’s what I felt. I was greatly relieved to know that neither of the two students who were injured were drinking or otherwise impaired, and I hope that that the law deals with the intoxicated driver quickly and fairly. As the police issue their findings and the families and friends involved begin to pick up the pieces, that’s all that’s left.

Or is it?

I know that DUI fatalities are random things, that they are the result of poor choices and fate. I also know that car crashes period are constants in our traffic-riddled metropolis, and it is unreasonable to expect a low number of incidents involoving teenaged drivers. Sheer statistics makes such occurances highly likely.

But I also know that the closer I become to some of our younger generation, the more keenly I am aware that a pervasive and permissive culture exists. I see it in the number of kids who are smoking weed. I see it in the number of kids who are drinking. I see it in the number of kids who are casual about sex. And it concerns me.

I’m not advocating a lockdown, or calling for a return to Puritan values (that would be dumb), but I am asking if our community is turning a blind eye to a growing trend within our youth – an increasingly cavalier attitude characterized by the acronym “YOLO”: You Only Live Once. The idea being that it’s okay to do things that you know are dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised, because, hey – you only live once.

Nevermind that by doing the aforementioned dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised thing, you may not live that long.

I’m guilty of promoting it. Looking back now, I’m sure that some of my younger charges have heard tales of my collegaite stupidity and thought, “He turned out okay. So will I.” But the truth of the matter is I didn’t turn out okay. I came through my period of rebellion with scars, some of which still run deep. I came out okay despite my stupid behavior, not because of it.

I’ll grant that what’s going on in our schools is nothing new. Kids have been experimenting with drugs and booze and sex and who knows what else for as long as most folks can remember. But what has changed is their perception of those things: once upon a time, it was If we do this and get caught, we’re gonna be in trouble. Now, it seems to be If we do this, it’ll be fun.

Suddenly, there’s no fear of consequences. In fact, there’s no fear of much of anything.

Suddenly, I find myself at a loss as to where we even begin to change this subtle undercurrent, this riptide of laissez faire. And it leaves me asking:

Is something wrong in Grayson?

I know I’m going to take some shots over this, but I think maybe it’s time we took a long collective look in the mirror. Your thoughts are welcomed below.